24 Jan B2B Industry: Current Trends and Predictions
Business-to-business (B2B) industries have felt the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. However, in Forester’s (2022) B2B marketing survey, over 50% of companies increased annual revenue by more than 20% in 2021 and spent 6.1% to 9% on marketing. Furthermore, 56% of surveyed B2B companies reported investing in technology infrastructure as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In turn, digital transformation has increased by 15% across B2B organizations. However, in the general sense, 47% of these industries experienced budget-related difficulties, including freezes on budgets and purchases.
The B2B industry is constantly evolving. Therefore, in order to maintain their competitive position B2B companies need to keep up with ever-changing trends. In the current economic environment, they should consider various factors to ensure their success in 2023 and beyond. These include:
1. Consider buying behaviors:
- B2B buying behavior has shifted. With this, 65% of the workforce comprises of Millennials (individuals born between 1981-1996) and Gen-Zers (individuals born between 1996- 2015). These buyers, having grown up in the digital age, conduct their own research and follow their own buyer’s journey. Similarly, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the older generations are replicating the behavior seen among Millennials and Gen-Zers. Consistent with this, a common trend seen across B2B buyers (87%) in recent years, is the preference for a self-serve experience.
- In turn, it has become increasingly important for B2B companies to adapt to this new reality.
- Therefore, organizations are encouraged to target the platforms where these buyers are most likely to engage. For example, this includes providing research, content, and resources (including pricing information) that interest the buyer. In some instances, including a demo can also aid the buyer’s understanding of the offering. This provides an opportunity for insight prior to a final decision.
2. Shift to digital platforms:
- B2B businesses should use digital platforms to create new marketing opportunities and connect with their target clients more efficiently.
- Nonetheless, some B2B businesses have experienced difficulties in appropriately integrating this technology into their organization.
- In line with this, 61% of executives report video investments as essential in B2B marketing plans for 2023. Similarly, half of B2B companies have pointed to social media as the top revenue-driving channel (this includes LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram), followed by content marketing (47%), and email marketing (41%).
- For instance, in 2019, LinkedIn acquired 80% of B2B leads and the platform helped 65% of businesses gain new clients. Moreover, 79% of executives in B2B businesses plan to invest heavily in digital marketing for driving organizational growth.
- Digital marketing is no longer a new and exciting phenomenon; instead, it has become the new ‘normal’ for marketing strategies.
3. Align strategies with technology infrastructure:
- This shift to digital platforms has increased the use of technology and reliance on data. Thus, prioritizing data and investing in technology are core focuses for B2B companies. It is believed that these investments will help B2B firms navigate the current turbulence of the economy. Furthermore, 86% of B2B marketers plan to increase their technology investments, 36% significantly and 50% indicating a moderate increase.
- However, B2B marketers continue to have difficulty aligning their strategies with their technology infrastructure. This becomes problematic as in times of crisis, it is common for B2B marketers to rely heavily on technology. The reason for this is to generate content, capture insights and create a sense of balance within the organization. However, this can create a further sense of disconnect when there is a misalignment between these two entities.
- Therefore, integrating data enables B2B companies to make informed decisions to grow their success when leveraging technology. This will increase the likelihood of developing successful strategies that align with the company’s goals and/or objectives.
4. Importance of tracking data:
- With the economic turbulence, B2B companies have recognized the importance of drawing on data analytics to analyze large data sets. This is valuable as it will assist with identifying hidden patterns that may be directly/indirectly impacting the businesses.
- Furthermore, A McKinsey & Company report inferred that B2B companies are often further behind their B2C competitors in embracing and implementing these analytics. However, B2B companies with successful data analytics integration are 1.5 times more likely to experience above-average growth. In turn, this provides companies with an opportunity to identify successful strategies and those that need reconsideration. This allows B2B companies to tailor their campaigns or strategies to meet their goals and/or objective.
- Thus, the use of data analytics empowers B2B firms to uncover opportunities and insights into purchasing patterns and buyer behavior. Through this, B2B firms gain a competitive advantage as they gain insights into trends, enabling informed decisions in strategies and processes.
5. Create transparency and trust through brand awareness:
- Given the uncertain times, the optimal strategy for success is for B2B companies to become adaptable. However, senior executives have reported that trying to define a precise plan has become a challenge. In uncertain times, the secret to success is adapting quickly to what appears, rather than predicting the future.
- Embedded within these changes, trends, and patterns are the continuously shifting buyer behaviors. Buyers are expecting brands to align more with their preferences and values.
- Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of deceptive marketing tactics. Therefore, creating a sense of trust within the brand is crucial for establishing and growing long-term partnerships. In support of this, research found that 86% of customers are more likely to buy from a transparent and authentic brand. Similarly, Gartner predicts that by 2027, 80% of organizations will dedicate an authenticity function to prevent releasing deceptive and misinformed content.
- Therefore, to build a strong sense of brand awareness, companies should focus on realigning their messages with current consumer/prospect realities. This creates a sense of self-explanation, as the brand forms part of the self. This allows the brand to become a form of self-expression. Furthermore, this creates a sense of safety and control, providing stability during uncertain times. This can increase engagement and conversation rates.
6. Personalization of content and marketing strategies:
- Client expectations have significantly changed over the last few years. Today, clients want to own products and engage with brands that draw on their personal characteristics, qualities, and values. Thus, the need for personalized marketing campaigns has become a key focus for B2B organizations. The reason for this is that marketers are realizing the significance of personalizing client interactions to improve the client experience. Nonetheless, Forrester’s (2022) report, found that only 11% of B2B decision-makers measure the full client experience in their CMO’s strategies.
- 54% of US and UK B2B marketers predict spending more on content creation and strategy in 2023, with 54% also planning to increase spending on customer marketing. In turn, the element of personalization will become integrated into the company’s strategies. This will allow organizations to maintain and grow their competitive position. Therefore, B2B companies should prioritize analyzing their client’s needs and preferences prior to developing their marketing campaigns.
The above appear to be the primary trends set to influence B2B firms in 2023 and beyond. However, research suggests that continued innovation is key for B2B businesses to meet their objectives and achieve beneficial outcomes. Thus, B2B companies have seen an average increase in marketing spending from 6.4% to 9.5% of company revenues across industries.
Therefore, by considering these trends, executives can engage in extensive discussions, drawing on data, insights, intuition, and expertise to guide the decision-making process and develop a solution-driven approach. This integrative approach to problem-solving has the potential to change the functioning of the entire company. This is why engaging the C-Suite becomes critical for B2B companies to succeed.